November 26, 2007


Here's what's goin' on 'round here.

-Taught a class on scientific writing, for example the difference between an 'em' dash and an 'en' dash-- like 'blue-green algae' uses the shorter 'en' dash the width of the letter 'n'-- and how to write paragraphs with a low Fog index. A related metric is the SMOG index, Simple Measure Of Gobbledygook.

-Rode my bike home in the dark, uphill, into the wind-blown diamond sharp ice crystals falling from the sky. Boy was I glad for my new North Face jacket with down lining.

-On Sunday I let Anders, 4, play the falling sand game on my new laptop. This game is genius. He was having so much fun that he managed to pop one of the keys off the keyboard, and then I cried out in anguish and shouted at him. He ran away and hid, and of course I was an idiot for letting a four-year-old play with my computer while I did the dishes, even though he did promise to be careful. Somebody at work told me that it was good for kids to see people going crazy and acting irrationally at home, to prepare them for the real world. Imagine if you expected everyone to be kind, patient and balanced wherever you went? Later I locked myself into the workshop and put on a thinking cap and was able to re-attach the windows key. Anders calls it the omelette key. We're friends again.

November 16, 2007


I spent some days this past week in Vilnius Lithuania seeing the town. Some friends invited me to give a talk at the University. The city is an interesting mixture of decayed Soviet-era buildings and new investment since the country joined the European Union.

This is a boarded up church and an abandoned building.

In Vilnius you can feel the weight of European history. The city was occupied by Russia in 1655, Sweden in 1702, Russia in 1795, Napoleon in 1812, Germany in 1915, independent Lithuania for a brief time in 1918 followed by Russia, Polish self-defense, Polish army, Soviet, Lithuania and then Poland, and then Russia in 1939, Germany 1941, and Russia in 1944. The country gained its independence in 1990 and is now a member of the European Union and NATO.

This is a plaque on the central courthouse commemorating the visit of G. W. Bush, who said, Anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America.

A friend took me for a long walk through the old city. We went through the small streets of 'JeruzalÄ—'. Vilnius once was comparable only to Jerusalem, Israel, as a world center for the study of the Torah, and for its large Jewish population. There were over 100 synagogues in Vilnius at the end of the 1800s. Here is a picture from the Choral Synagogue (right-hand side), the only synagogue in Vilnius to survive the holocaust.

The old city is dominated by Catholic and Orthodox churches. Peter the Great was baptised in Vilnius. There were signs written in Cyrillic, Hebrew, Latin and a kind of Belarussian Greek-Cyrillic script. Cosmopolitan Vilnius even has an Islamic community, the descendants of Tartars who came from the Crimean in the 14th c, and I have read that there are also Lutheran and Baptist groups.

The friend who gave me the tour told me about his wife's father. He was one of the Lithuanian nationalists who was taken prisoner by the Gulag and sent to a camp in Siberia. He was there for 9 years. After he returned he spent the rest of his life restoring the historical buildings of Vilnius. Wherever we would go my friend would say things like, This is the building where the Lithuanian state was declared in February 1918. My wife's father made the facade.

For lunch the first day I ate borscht followed by two zeppelins. A zeppelin is an air ship, or a ball of pork cooked in a prolate shell of potato dough.

November 14, 2007

Cost of abatement

This figure shows the cost of different methods of preventing a ton of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere in euros (1 EUR = $1.46). Many of the methods have negative costs meaning that in addition to preventing CO2 emissions they save money. Click on the graph to enlarge.

November 08, 2007


Anders turned 4 on Halloween and got his first bike. He can cover great distances at high speed and his favorite method of braking is to steer into a hedge. So far no tears. With another cyclist in the family there wasn't space in the garage anymore, so Fredrik and I built this bike shelter. His favorite part was using the rechargeable screwdriver.

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